A fast-moving brush fire in difficult-to-access terrain quickly scorched about 10,000 acres north of Los Angeles, burning some homes and forcing mandatory evacuations for at least 100 homes.
Strong winds were expected Thursday after the fire spread rapidly Wednesday afternoon and into the overnight hours. At least three homes burned in the 20000 block of Pine Canyon Road, where most of the devastation was reported overnight. The neighborhood is along the eastern flank of the fire in the Lake Hughes area.
There had been no reports of injuries. Several vehicles also burned and more than 5,000 buildings are threatened by flames.
Firefighters on Thursday faced another day of dangerous fire conditions, including wind gusts and heat. Thunderstorms were in the forecast for Southern California's mountains.
“This creates a lot of downdrafts and erratic winds, something they just don’t need right now,” said Sam DiGiovanna, fire chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy. “This is in some very rugged, hard to reach areas, so it’s going to be a long time before they get a containment line around this.”
Light rain was falling early Thursday, but expect to diminish by the afternoon.
The Lake Fire was reported at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday near North Lake Hughes Road and Pine Canyon Road in the Angeles National Forest, according to Marvin Lim of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, which was battling the blaze with Angeles National Forest crews, as well as assistance from the Los Angeles, Culver City, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica fire departments.
More than six dozen San Diego area firefighters were also assisting in the firefight as of Wednesday night, including crews with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, Cal Fire San Diego and Heartland Fire and Rescue.
The fire west of Palmdale had a "rapid rate of spread," amid temperatures in the mid-90s, low humidity and gusty winds, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The forest service and county fire departments quickly called in second-alarm responses.
By 4:30 p.m., the flames had burned 400 acres, and officials said the fire had the potential to burn 1,000 acres, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. That quickly changed two hours later, when the flames exploded across an estimated 10,000 acres, with no containment.
The fire was entirely on federal land as of 6:30 p.m., according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The sheriff's department issued mandatory evacuation orders affecting at least 100 homes, and an evacuation center was set up for displaced residents at Highland High School in Palmdale.
"In this evacuation, unfortunately because of COVID protocols, a shelter is not actually established, people will have to stay in their cars," said Sgt. Ron Schaffer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
People staying in their cars at the center are allowed to have small animals with them.
Animal boarding was available at Castaic Animal Care Center, Lancaster Animal Care Center, Palmdale Animal Care Center and the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, according to the American Red Cross Los Angeles.
By 7:15 p.m., the flames had jumped Pine Canyon Road, two miles west of Lake Hughes Road, and shortly after, flames were seen on aerial footage burning structures that appeared to be homes in the area.
The California Highway Patrol set up road closures throughout the area. San Francisquito Canyon Road was closed at Spunky Canyon Road, Pine Canyon Road at Three Points Road and Lake Hughes Road, Three Points Road at Highway 138, Old Ridge Route at Highway 138 and Lake Hughes Road at Ridge Route Road, the CHP reported shortly after 8:30 p.m.